OLYMPUS, MT.

Rising above the Aegean Sea, Mt. Olympus at 9,573 feet is the highest mountain in Greece. Mt. Olympus played an important role in Greek religion, myth, and literature. The Greeks believed that the mountain reached the sky and that it was the home of their 12 major gods and goddesses. These deities* were also called the Olympians, for the mountaintop on which they resided. Mt. Olympus may have been regarded as the home of the gods because early Greek immigrants originated from the region, or because the mountain was the farthest point known to the prehistoric Greeks. Homer’s epic poem the Odyssey describes the mansion of the gods as a place that is unaffected by wind or rain and is always in brilliant sunshine—a place where “the blithe gods live all their days in bliss.” Mt. Olympus is the largest of a chain of mountains which form a boundary in northeastern Greece between the regions of Thessaly and Macedonia. In ancient times, these mountains served as a natural barrier to protect Greece from invasions from the north. Potential invaders had either to make their way through the narrow pass of Tempe in the east or to scale the high mountain passes in the west. (See also Divinities; Geography and Geology, Mediterranean; Myths, Greek.)

* deity god or goddess

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